In Jeremiah 7 we read one of the temple messages that God gives through His prophet Jeremiah, to His people.
In verse 2 God says to Jeremiah “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message. Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.”
These words spoken from the gates of the temple was for those that are still actively engaging in worship in the Lord’s temple.
The temple was central to the people and it was a significant part of their lives. It was characterized by beauty on the outside and on the inside. The temple had pure bronze columns, golden incense altars and lamp stands, wooden cherubim, each ten feet tall with outstretched wings. Inside the holy place, and in the innermost part of the temple, was the Ark of the Covenant, signifying the very presence of God.
The Israelites deceived themselves into thinking that saying religious words and following religious rituals when they were at the Temple in Jerusalem was all that was needed to be right with God.
What was God’s thoughts on their ways?
God wanted them to reform their ways, in verse 3 God says “Reform your ways and your actions and I will let you live in this place.”
What were the people doing that they had to change their ways? In verses 5-9 we get an insight into their actions that were displeasing to God.
In verse 4 God warns, “Do not to listen to deceptive words and say, this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Spoken by false prophets, the deceptive words that God mentions were giving the people false assurance that they were exempt from God’s judgement simply because of the presence of the temple. The meaningless and repetitive mention of the words ‘this is the Lord’s temple’ is not what God was seeking after but genuine worship and a change of heart as we read in verse 5 “if you really change your ways and your actions.”
We read these very words in Mathew 7:21 said by Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
What kind of Worship were the people offering?
Habitual actions/rituals with an absence of genuine heartfelt obedience, practices that rested more on the deceptive words from false prophets rather than the truth from God. The people seemed to give more emphasis and value to the temple than to God, the presence of whom makes the temple significant in worship.
In verse 10, God says that after committing all the above-mentioned sins, “They come and stand before me in this house, which bears my name and say, we are safe”– safe to do all these detestable things?”
Picture carrying on living without a sense of God’s moral standard and rushing back to God, confessing and asking for forgiveness only to step back out and carry on in the same way. James 2:20 says “Faith without deeds is useless.” In 1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel tells Saul that to obey is better than sacrifice. God is far more interested in our heart’s condition, in how we treat each other than in any religious act one can perform, because the presence of God does not leave one unchanged but transforms us.
Do we see parallels today with this sort of worship?
The Israelites relied on the presence of the temple, thinking if they followed their rituals all was good between them and God. Just like going to the temple did not make them faithful, going to church on Sunday does not define one’s faithfulness. God knows and God sees. God doesn’t just want to be a part of our Sunday. God wants us and our whole life. Worship is not attached to a place or a church, but our lives are meant to be a form of worship to God. Worship at Church that does not reflect a life given to and lived for God but rather just an obligatory practice is not what God desires from us.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, where is the following of Christ in that sort of a life?
God is not in the business of redeeming buildings, but He is for redeeming people. He is not after offerings but the changed hearts of people.
In verse 3 and 7 we read God say, if you change your ways “Then I will let you live in this place.” What place is God talking about? In verse 7 we read, “In the land that I gave your forefathers forever and ever.” The land that they were living in was theirs, given by God and God himself reminds them that it is theirs forever. That gift was God’s blessing and provision to them, but their acts of disobedience and rebellion put them in a position where they were going to be removed from that blessing and promise.
We see that happen with the Israelites, after being led out of Egypt by God through Moses, rebelled and disobeyed God. And an entire generation did not get to set foot in the promised land (Deuteronomy 1:35).
Our choices and actions always do have consequences. God is a loving and forgiving Father but He who bestows everything so lavishly on us clearly states that in response to His love and grace, an intentional effort and desire to walk in a manner that honours Him and is pleasing to Him is necessitated.
In verse 11, we read, “Has this house which bears my Name become a den of robbers to you? We see this verse quoted by Jesus in Mathew 21:13 when he enters the temple and chases out all those who were buying and selling.
When we gather for worship in God’s name – what are we making that place out to be – a house of prayer, a beacon of hope, a place for lost and weary souls, a place that reflects Christ’s love, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance, or do we make it a den of robbers? Robbing people of the chance to know Christ and twisting the design and purpose that God had for what church should be.
In verse 13, we read, “While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.”
We see God’s faithfulness to His people here. While they lived displeasing Him, He called and spoke to them again and again. A heart full of love who does not give up on His people and persistent in drawing them back to Him is what we see here. The Lord spoke and He called, but the Israelites chose not to listen and did not respond to His call.
Is God speaking to you today about something He wants you to let go off. Is He calling you to a deeper walk of faith with Him or if you have not acknowledged Him as your Lord, is He calling you to do so?
The Lord was faithful then and He is faithful to us now. He wants to draw close to us, He wants genuine heartfelt worship and hearts that desire Him and lives that reflect that. He wants to take us deeper in our journey with Him and to do so we have to reflect on our ways and our actions and see if they are right in the eyes of God.
In verse 16, we read God tell Jeremiah, not to pray for the people. After seeing how God calls them repeatedly to turn back to Him, why does he say that?
Prayer is a vital part of our relationship with God, he calls us to pray. Even though he knows what we need, we are asked to take our petitions to Him. Shouldn’t praying for the people be more urgent considering they were being stubborn towards God. How would we reconcile God asking Jeremiah not to pray for the people?
God uses his judgement here to jar people out of their disobedience, to break that stubborn set of their hearts and soften them towards Him. When repeated words of waring are not heeded, tough times can serve to cause one to reflect and realise the error of one’s ways. I have had people who do not necessarily believe in God reach out to me for prayer when trials hit. Tough times can make one realise that they are not sovereign over their lives, making them open to listen when they otherwise might not have bothered.
May our lives be one of worship to Him, heeding His voice and walking in all the ways the Lord commands us and honouring HIM with our obedience.